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The fight over Lisbon competencies in EU fisheries policy continues

It’s been more than two years now that the Treaty of Lisbon is the constitutional foundation of the work of the European Union. Yet, there are still turf wars between the EU institutions on how the powers laid out in the Treaties are to be implemented.

An example comes from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): For two years, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission fought over the interpretation of Article 43(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which stipulates that:

“The Council, on a proposal from the Commission, shall adopt measures on fixing prices, levies, aid and quantitative limitations and on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities.”

One has to know that in general, the Lisbon Treaty has introduced the ordinary legislative procedure where Parliament and Council are equal co-legislators for all decisions related to the Common Fisheries Policy (see Article 43(2)).

Article 43(3) is thus an exception to the rule, and the inter-institutional fight – with the Commission on the Council’s side as one could see during a recent debate in the European Parliament (Council summary in English) – on the interpretation of what kind of decisions are meant with the term “fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities” – and which are not – is continuously coming up in the Parliament. The Parliament is of the opinion that in a number of issues the Commission and the Council are overstepping the limits of the exceptions, and so this again and again gives reason to discussions.

I’ve seen and heard this debate already when following meetings of the EU Parliament fisheries committee in 2010, and, in fact, a provisional European Parliament policy guide on the CFP (p. 21) from mid-2009 already foresaw this upcoming fight before the Lisbon Treaty was even in ratified.

So if this was clear from the outset, known for three years already, debated over and over, why can’t the institutions come to an agreement? Why hasn’t the European Court of Justice been asked (or has it?) for a final legal opinion given that the legal services of the institutions seem to disagree? And why, by the way, it is impossible (at least for me) to find the legal opinions of the legal services of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament on this matter? Just asking…

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